The World Manufacturing Foundation (WMF) is a dynamic platform that aims to bring economic and environmental growth and stability to the global manufacturing industry. The WMF brings together various manufacturing stakeholders to meet the needs of the evolving challenges being faced in the sector.
The 2021 World Manufacturing: Digitally Enabled Circular Manufacturing report provides the latest insights, potential shortcomings, and key recommendations of the current circular manufacturing (CM) climate. Irene Sterian, President & CEO of REMAP, was a key contributor to the final WMF report, which is summarized by section to bring its most salient points to light.
The 2021 WMF report focuses specifically on the current digital technologies (DT) currently available to support the increased push by the manufacturing industry in CM. The recent adoption and acceptance of CM in the sector focus specifically on reducing waste and how DT can assist that mission. This change in thinking is illustrated in Figure 1.
The report looked at both the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and several other factors to evaluate current progress and what still needed to be addressed. The report found that there was still a good amount of work that needed to be done regarding incentives, business models, and stakeholders in enforcing good practices for CM. These were then discussed with regard to the five strategic goals of CM, as shown in Figure 2:
The report then went into detail, describing how each of these goals could be reached, taking into consideration what was currently occurring and what resources were available. The various challenges being faced were described in great detail and compared to the global footprint presented.
The WMF report noted that the results of current efforts of applying the strategic goals so far had shown that the benefits to manufacturers using CM far exceeded the alternatives. The benefits include waste reduction, job creation, climate protection, and more.
It was then discussed how DT could be a catalyst for value chains in manufacturing. Data collected in the report had shown how companies (specifically European companies) had started making investments directly related to sustainability and CM in general.
The report further highlighted that the immediate goal that needed to be achieved through DT was extending the resource lifecycle to fully use it without any waste. It also stated that this was not only a manufacturing issue but a user issue in general.
DT had shown that it could obtain the three key objectives set out: reduced emissions, resource maximization, and waste reduction. There was also a specific emphasis placed on the reduction of waste as the main driver in improving manufacturing processes. A case study was presented in how the steel industry could use augmented reality (AR) to retain vital learned skills as an aging and diminishing workforce.
For any aspects of DT to occur, there would be an increased need to bring about and implement better policies. Recorded data were used to show how the often-linear take-make-waste approach was taking a toll on the planet.
The need for policy development was contextualized with the UN 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. For real policy development to occur, the report showed that clear and identifiable goals would be needed. These goals would support and pave the way for sustainability in terms of the scope of the WMF. It was identified that Sustainable Development Goal 12 (SDG 12) would best represent this scope. Even though the CM was not explicitly mentioned, its essence was discussed. See Figure 4 for context.
The report then further discussed how the CM process was vital in the global sphere. It stated that the shortcomings of methods that negatively impacted the earth would need to be addressed by going digital post-COVID-19. This showcased that the need for Green Development (GD) is more vital than ever.
The WMF report broke down the goals and results that local regions had made towards GD. It was very brief but extremely thorough in its evaluation.
Having now discussed what the present conditions were like worldwide and which goals needed to be set, the WMF created a vital and practical list of crucial recommendations for the benefits of GD to become a reality.
These key recommendations correlate with the findings discussed in the report:
The report made a thorough and well-researched argument about why CM is vital to improving manufacturing’s climate impact. The potential to reap the benefits of transforming our industry is clear and evident.
It was also highlighted that the current reality versus ideal goals is the biggest challenge that would need to be overcome in the coming years. It was shown that DT was vital in reaching SDG 12 a reality and that the need to do so was a burden that every person carries, whether they realize it or not. The time for action is now.